Graham Threatens Hold on Hagel Nomination

Wednesday, 30 Jan 2013 12:56 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Sen. Lindsey Graham is threatening to block former Sen. Chuck Hagel's confirmation as defense secretary unless outgoing Pentagon chief Leon Panetta testifies about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya last September.

“The one thing I'm not going to do is vote on a new secretary of Defense until the old secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, who I like very much, testifies about what happened in Benghazi,” Graham said in a recent interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren.

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He said he was "absolutely" committed to placing a hold on the nomination if his request wasn't satisfied, according to The Hill newspaper.

But when informed that Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin was already setting up hearing to hear Panetta's testimony on Benghazi, Graham said that would satisfy his concerns even though the committee could hold a vote on Hagel before the secretary appears.

Graham told Van Susteren he wants to know why military assets weren't available on Sept. 11, when the embassy was attacked by Islamist extremists thought to be closely tied to al Qaida. Panetta has said before that intelligence reports were not clear enough about what was happening at the time for the U.S. military to respond.

As far as Hagel is concerned, Graham said he likes the former senator and will decide whether to support him for the post when he testifies before the armed services panel on Thursday. According to The Hill, Graham said even though he has been critical of some of Hagel's past positions, he doesn't question his honesty or integrity.

In addition to Hagel, Graham has also threatened to block John Brennan's nomination as CIA director. Brennan was part of Obama's national security team at the time of the attacks in Benghazi.

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